Photography: Steady 70
There’s a reason they call photography a dream job. It’s creative, it’s rewarding and best of all, it’s paying work that doesn’t have a boss. Sure, you’ll have deadlines and clients, but you’ll also have the freedom to decide how you arrange your working life. You could, in theory at least, grab a suitcase, pack a camera and spend some time shooting from the open road.
That’s something that Steve Levine and Iris Bachman did shortly after the couple met in 2004. Steve had been an amateur photographer for about four years then and he was about to have his first exhibition – or rather exhibitions, because his photos, images of models bodypainted so that their feelings became the subjects of the photos, were going to be shown at three different New York galleries over the space of four weeks.
“It was exciting but extremely stressful at the same time,” he recalled. “I had no idea what, who, how or even why I was doing this… the only thing that saved me was Iris, and her presence… [H]er most encouraging words were always, ‘When these shows are finished we are going to take a trip.'”
The exhibitions over, the couple left in June 2004, heading southwest with Iris’s truck, Steve’s camera, his dog and a portfolio of 16 x 20 fiber prints, some of which they were able to sell on the road. Over the next sixteen months, they traveled through South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, California, headed back to New York, and ended up in Miami where they set up a professional photography company called Steady 70.
There was no plan when they left other than to get away, but traveling with a camera meant that the couple had options, both for personal work and to meet their expenses. Just outside of Albuquerque, for example, Steve and Iris met up with another photographer who had gained access to the Santa Fe train maintenance park, a 300 acre industrial site that had been vacant for 20 years. Even though the temperature was so cold that the paint cracked as soon as it was applied to the model’s skin, the park provided a perfect opportunity for Steve to explore his series further.
Paying their way though was harder. The couple shot anything and everything they could. They found that jobs posted on free websites tended to pay very little if anything at all, but offering to shoot a bed and breakfast could be enough land them a free hotel room and a place to rest even for several weeks until the next leg of their journey. Travel magazines provided another option but without a contact or an established connection, the publication usually preferred to see results than pay for commissions, Steve told us.
“[I]t’s good to keep track of where you shot each image even, if you can, write stories to go along with them,” he recommends. ” [T]ake notes on everything, save those images on dvds/externals, and if the timing is right, who knows?”
Professional and Personal Growth
The biggest benefit of spending almost a year and a half on the road together was always going to be personal though — few things can destroy or cement a relationship faster than a road trip. The journey had plenty of ups and downs, Steve recalled, but it was the experiences that contributed to the happiness the couple has now.
They also contributed to the success they have now. By the time Steve and Iris reached Miami, they had built up a large bank of commercial images which they were able to put on their website and use to win more jobs. Iris, who had started as a photographer’s assistant and photo retoucher had learnt enough to contribute to the company as a photographer as well, and every spring and summer, the couple now spend two weeks each month shooting for travel magazines, hotels and resorts. Through Steady 70, they have completed assignments in Cancun, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St Martin, Saint Barths, Aruba and New York.
“One of the best things about working as a photographer is that we get to see, taste, feel, and explore new places and cultures,” says Steve. “Because of the adventures we had in our past, we have begun another adventure that keeps us doing what we love to do: shooting and traveling.”
Who says photography has to be a tough job?
[tags] travel photography, travel photographers [/tags]